Sheldon CAPS Program

Student-associates in this semester’s program of the Siouxland Center for Advanced Professional Studies meet at Northwestern College in Orange City. The new program has six seniors from Sheldon this semester, and it works to develop business skills and prepare young people for the modern workplace.

SHELDON—After months of planning, a new workplace experience program at Sheldon High School is well underway to help students get a step ahead in their careers.

The Siouxland Center for Advanced Professional Studies, usually shortened to CAPS, offers juniors and seniors a chance to get out of the classroom and into local businesses.

The initiative — which started this semester after getting school board approval in the spring — aims to teach students soft skills they will need in the workplace, something that is difficult to grasp with traditional lecture-and-textbook instruction.

Sheldon instructional coach Cindy Prewitt leads the school’s CAPS with business teacher Amanda De Groot.

Prewitt said the program is off to a good start.

“I’ve been really happy with how the first semester has progressed so far,” she said. “We started the semester with a strong focus on self-discovery including having student-associates take the DISC assessment and the 16 Personalities assessment.”

Those assessments help the future employees how they prioritize tasks, feel productive and work best with others.

While the tests are not strictly scientific, they help students understand how they can make the most of their time in a range of business settings.

The skills-focused teaching that CAPS offers is part of a larger trend, especially in secondary education, as academia adjusts to market demands.

Communication, time management and interpersonal skills are becoming top-line must-haves for prospective hires.

In addition to the Sheldon district, the Siouxland CAPS works with MOC-Floyd Valley and Sioux Center high schools.

Similar initiatives not affiliated with the group have been established in Rock Valley and other school districts.

“I’ve enjoyed talking with the students about their interests and career goals, college options, and coordinating the interviews with professionals in our community,” Prewitt said. “I’ve also seen great growth with our associates’ communication skills in both their willingness to initiate contact and in the quality of their writing and speaking.”

It’s all about getting the teenagers comfortable with themselves in a professional atmosphere, the educator said.

Part of the lessons focus on the absolute basics such as hand shakes, eye contact and pitching ideas.

“They also practiced team problem-solving and small talk with Erica Vonk at Northwestern College and they will be working with Dordt’s Career Development Center on interview and resume skills. We’re currently working on projects submitted by community entities and practicing project management skills,” Prewitt said.

She stressed that the CAPS’ success relies on its outside partners, such as local colleges and especially nearby businesses.

“We hope to continue to de­­velop partnerships with businesses and industries in town to give our students as many options for projects to develop as possible and to continue to help our students understand career options available to them and the opportunities that are in Sheldon,” she said.

Fusion Workspace has served as a CAPS meeting place and Sheldon and other business partners such as Village Northwest Unlimited, Van Wyk Trucking and Rosenboom also have contributed to the program.

Prewitt and other CAPS leaders spent months preparing for the program and she said she already is looking forward to building on this first go.

The Sheldon class has six students enrolled and she hopes to grow the semesterlong class for upperclassmen.

“CAPS is part of a progression of work-based learning that Sheldon High School offers our students,” Prewitt said. “As we continue to learn about options in work-based learning and we reflect on what we offer our students, we will refine and develop our work. We are working to develop relationships that are beneficial to our students, our community, and our school.”